By ELLIOTT DENMAN
BERLIN - Her high school teammates called her "Chicken Legs."
That was back around 2001 and Allyson Felix was that spindly sophomore at Baptist High School in Los Angeles.
But she sure could run.
And look how far those legs have carried her now.
In the course of 65.99 seconds, "Chicken Legs" Allyson Felix has become the first three-time women's 200-meter dash champion of the World Championships of Track and Field.
Add up her victories - taking 22.16 seconds at Helsinki in 2005, 21.81 at Osaka in 2007, and 22.02 Friday night at historic Olympic Stadium - and the're just a few tads beyond one minute.
In the process of all these achievements, she is beginning to be recognized as one of America's greatest-ever women's long sprinters.
Put her up on the list - OK, maybe not the top of the list but close to it - with such celebrated USA superstars as the late and great Florence Griffith-Joyner and Wilma Rudolph, as well as Evelyn Ashford, Valerie Brisco-Hooks, Gwen Torrence and Chandra Cheeseborough. And get this - she won't be 24 until November.
Sad to say this - but virtually all of Marion Jones' performances, which would have qualified her for such a list - have been scratched from consideration.
Felix called her start Friday night "just decent."
But once she was underway and in full flight mode, there was no catching her.
She blazed the turn and "brought it home" with meters to spare on Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica.
As she crossed the finish line, her time of 22.02 was flashed on the scoreboard. Campbell-Brown was a not-close second in 22.35 while 2001 Worlds champion Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of Bahamas nosed out America's number two, Muna Lee, for the bronze medal, 22.41 to 22.48.
All these women would have been expected to run a bunch faster. But the track was still soaking wet from the pelting-down rain - accompanied by thunderclaps - of an hour earlier.
In a sense, this was a score settled, sort of. Two-time Olympic champion Campbell-Brown had beaten out Felix for the gold medal at Athens in 2004, 22.05 to 22.18, and at Beijing in 2008, 21.74 to 21.93.
Felix is one of just 10 American women ever to break 22 seconds for the half-lap distance. She came to Berlin as the fastest 200 woman of 2009, with a 21.88, but her career best remains the 21.81 she ran winning the Worlds at Osaka in 2007.
Somewhere down the line, she'll be expected to have a serious run at the world record of 21.34 set by 'Flo-Jo" Griffith-Joyner at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Sure, they've been saying the Griffith-Joyner 200 performance (along with her 10.49 in the 100) ) is as safe as the Rock of Gibraltar, bound to endure forever. But weren't they sying that about Michael Johnson's 19.32 performance at the Atlanta Olympic Games, until Usain Bolt burst on to the world track scene?
"I defended my title, I cannot ask for more," she said after jogging a joyous, flag-draped victory lap, her ever-wide smile setting a record or two along the way.
"How can I compare my two (previous world) titles? They're all different.
"But this one happened in a stadium with a lot of history."
In the process, the once-"Chicken Legs" wrote some Berlin history of her own.